Are bodyweight squats enough to build legs?

Imagine explaining to your grandchildren that your legs look skinny in that photo because you couldn’t squat due to a global pandemic. Do you think they’ll buy that story? Well, we better not get ourselves in a situation where we’ll have to find out the answer. With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging in some parts of the world, gyms remain closed, and most of us are going crazy.

Even with the strictest gym mentality that heavily relies on the “no excuses” poster hanged right above our beds, it’s quite tricky to maintain a physique in a time when going to the iron sanctuary is considered a significant health hazard.

Those of us who can’t go a week without pushing our bodies to the limit is probably trying to find the best way to maintain physical performance, but I have to admit, it’s harder than I thought. The feeling of breaking your own personal best at the squat rack is irreplaceable, but we have to find an alternative.

A lot of fitness enthusiasts who are stuck at home switched over to bodyweight exercises, except those who have all the equipment they need for a proper home-gym training session. Not that there’s anything wrong with calisthenics, but how on earth can we maintain our leg muscles without some heavy plates and a bar? According to many calisthenics athletes, the answer is bodyweight squats, a lot of them.

Advantages of Bodyweight Squats

Let’s not focus only on the negative side of this situation. Bodyweight squats can be done anywhere, and they might be the real leg-muscle savior. You don’t need any equipment to perform them, and if you have the will for it, you can rep out hundreds of them in less than twenty minutes. Doing this will result in a great cardio session, as well as some nice endurance building in your quads and glutes. But what happens when you can do so many of them that it doesn’t make sense anymore? You switch things up, and here’s how.

Introducing the pistol squats

We never really understood whether they’re named “piston” or “pistol” squats, but either one of those will give you the right Google search results. When the regular version of the bodyweight squat becomes too easy, this is what you can do. Believe me, they’re harder than they look.

Now that you’ve increased the difficulty, you’ll be able to train in the “normal” rep ranges that we’re used to train at. From four-hundred regular squats, it’s suddenly just ten or fifteen pistol squats. Four or five reps of these and you already completed one solid exercise for your legs. Accompany this with a few sets of lunges, and you’ll feel the burn, no matter how tough you think your legs are.

How often should I train?

This is highly individual, but if you really think that you were strong before, and now you’re looking forward to maintaining that, twice a week should be enough. Make sure that you’re paying attention to progressive overload. If your training sessions are not increasing in difficulty, you won’t be making progress.

At the end of the day, we can’t choose whether we want to do these or not, because the squat rack and the hack-squat machine are quite unreachable at the moment. The only question is whether we want to keep our legs in shape or not, and you know what the answer is.